LA Sans Auto

I’m have a friend who’s thinking of moving to LA, but does not have a car. I keep saying that while auto-less life is a pain, its certainly not impossible to get by.

Anybody have tales to tell of what life in LA is like without wheels? (Lisa – I know you’ve got some stories)

15 Replies to “LA Sans Auto”

  1. Well, I’m a little spoiled because I work from home. I have a few friends nearby who are occasionally willing to drive me around if I bribe them with free food and/or coffee, and I’m within walking distance of a subway stop.

    That said, moving from NYC to LA was a tough change for me, transportation-wise. For several months after I moved here, I felt like the lamest person in the entire city, just because i didn’t have a car. But now, I finally have money to buy one (albeit a junky one), and it suddenly feels less essential.

    If you are going to move to LA and be carless, I’d suggest moving in the fall, once things start to cool down a bit. It gets so hot here in the summer that walking anywhere, or even standing still at a sunny bus stop, can be brutal.

    Um, a few more quick tips:
    -Live near a subway. I won’t take it alone at night, but it’s fine during the day.
    -buy groceries online. it is SO worth it.
    -bookmark the MTA trip finder. Tell it where you need to go, and it’ll tell you the schedule options. Since a lot of the buses only come once an hour, it really helps to plan ahead.
    -live someplace with a pool, so when you get depressed about not having a car, you can float around and look up at the palm trees and feel better.

    Ask me again in a few months and maybe I’ll have tips for buying a cheap car…

  2. This isn’t an LA perspective as much as an OC one, but it’s similar. I was without a car until I turned 24, so I took the bus – a lot. And while it might take a little longer, buses in LA and OC both will get you just about everywhere you need to go. Add to that the LA train lines and subway, and you’re pretty much set, as long as you know the routes and schedules. It’s much easier than people think.

  3. For two summers – one during college and one during law school – I used public trans to commute between my home in San Pedro and my job in downtown LA. Fortunately, San Pedro is the terminus for an express commuter route. Unfortunately, because we aren’t the west side or palos verdes, we got the shit buses and not the comfy commuter buses. The dependability also left a bit to be desired. when they ran correctly, they were great. And most of the time, they ran correctly. Most.

    But I definitely had a car to get around my hometown itself. In that way, it probably is easier to travel regionally than locally – though many DOT/Dash routes exist. I just never had to learn them.

    Living off a color line (Green, Blue, Red, Gold – light rail) is always going to be nicer than a bus – but clearly limited. And don’t forget Metrolink which is nice, but requires you to spoke out from Union Station or just go between nodes on the lines.

    I would say – suck it up and get a car. Learning to drive out here is the equivalent of learning the subway map in NYC. If you’re going to make a go of it here, do it right. And we’re a car culture.

    Never, however, fault us for that. I’d tell Angelenos not to bitch about giving up their cars in NYC either.

  4. I moved from Boston in August. I live in Santa Monica which has a much cleaner, safer, less crowded and more reliable bus system than the Metro Bus. I’ve taken it a few times and been scared. The subway is not a safe place for a female since I’ve been the only person in a car. Nobody is around to see if you are attacked or whatever. This is the not an exaggeration–I read an account of someone who was hurt on this very blog. I have really enjoyed Santa Monica since it has a great community feel and there are many conveniences in walking distance (post office, bank, grocery store, library, restaurants, bars, shopping, my gym, the beach). I have heard that Echo Park has a good community feel as well. Basically, you can have a good, albeit limited life in LA with no car. I have friends in Silverlake (almost 30 miles away) who I see once every three months or so. You will have to make friends who either don’t mind driving all the time or who live near by. It has been really hard for me, coming from Boston where I am used to the bus and subway taking me everywhere (and not having that be the social stigma it is here). Everyone in LA lives in their car practically (due to insane traffic) and I was told that the bus in LA is a form of welfare. Wish your friend luck…

  5. I too moved from Boston (in the summer). Moved to a nice place in Silverlake but my work was on the West LA / Santa Monica border. Everyday I would walk 1/2 a mile to the #4, get off and walk a mile to my building.

    If you’re in Silverlake you can see the hill I had to conquer twice a day. It’s at the corner of Sunset and Maltman and it’s a bitch.

    As for taking the subway, I did it twice. Someone got me nervous about what would happen in the subway during an earthquake. It is amazing though, that the metro in LA works on the honor system, or at least it did in 2001

  6. I have a friend who is carless. She lives in Pasadena and works as a freelance patternmaker. She is always commuting between Pasadena, Vernon, El Monte, Downtown, Hollywood, etc. She makes do by using a bicycle in addition to the Metro and buses. I know it is hard for her and her commutes often take upwards of 2 hours. She works from home as much as she can. She is very earth friendly and balances the difficulties by feeling good about not contributing to the smog. But, she would buy a car in a heartbeat if she could afford one new enough not to need constant repairs.

  7. I didn’t have a car during my first year in Los Angeles. I’m not going to lie and say it was easy, or that I wasn’t relieved when I finally passed my driving test. I do think it was actually good for me to not have a car my first year. I actually felt more integrated into city life than now, because now I’m usually by myself in the car. I would walk more and look more at my surroundings when I was on the bus or train. Now, I sometimes see a store that looks interesting while I’m driving, but I never stop and go inside because there’s no parking outside the store — and the car makes me too lazy to walk there. I’ve even gotten to the point where I drive to the Ralph’s a block away.

    I would use public transportation as a way to explore the city during my first year and to begin to understand the lay of the land. I’m sure you’ll meet friends who can help take you to out of the way places, if it is necessary. Then, by year two, I would quickly buy the nicest car you can afford and join the rest of us on the 405.

  8. I ordered online groceries from Vons for the first time yesterday. Received them today for a 7.95 delivery charge. It was awesome. I am never going to the grocery store again if I can avoid it (an experience which involves a non-work hour walking around, wait in line, putting stuff on counter, parking, lugging 6 bags of groceries, blah, blah, blah). You have to do a $50 order min., but that’s like a weeks+ worth of food for me (and I would spend 2-3 times that at the local convenience store in a week).

    Anyway, point is, if I didn’t own a car, but worked out of my apartment (or my office was a couple of miles away) and I lived in a nice walking-around place like Santa Monica, Venice, Marina Del Ray, West Hollywood, etc, I could see myself getting by without a car in LA; this is especially the case with great services like online grocery shopping. Yeah, I could manage with a computer and a cell phone and cash for a few extra services (and maybe invest in one of those Vespa scooters and a couple of helmets for a Santa Monica to Silverlake or Hollywood Bowl run).

    Online grocery shopping sounds like an extravagance, but it is a service most working people should use. It keeps cars off the road and ,like I said, might help you to live without a car in LA)

  9. I have two roommates who don’t own cars, one never did and the other sold his once he moved downtown. They both took either the subway or bus to work, used one of those folding cart things to haul their groceries home from Grand Central Market, and relied on Flexcar, which is a car-sharing service, for their occasional driving needs.

    I take the subway or walk wherever and whenever I can. I use my car maybe every other week and when I do, I am so thankful that I don’t sit in that traffic on a regular basis.

  10. My first year in LA was car-less and carefree…I lived in Venice and worked in Santa Monica. I would ride my bike along the SM beach bikepath all of 10 minutes to get to work. On rainy days I would take the blue bus which took 30 minutes. It was pure joy.

  11. CT– Silverlake is about 18 miles from Santa Monica–not 30! Why don’t you meet halfway between–like West Hollywood?
    If you want to really live in LA and explore all of the city, not just your little niche, you need a car. Buy one with a friend or buy a junker and learn to fix it.
    Chris–if your grocery delivery keeps cars off the road–how do you get the food–by helicopter? Why not just make a trip with a friend or neighbor?

  12. Get a bike. It’s so simple. Great idea — unless you have a child. It’s just not practical. Try packing a 4-year-old and groceries on a bike. Try going anywhere as a family on a bike. Bikes are recreation — not transportation — if you’re not single and childless.

  13. Cars: you know, “you,” “me” and the other drivers who normally fill the parking lots at grocery stores. Delivery keeps those “Cars” off the road, at least for a little while.

    But, having a helicopter drop my food off is pretty kick-ass, I have to admit :)

  14. I’m just echoing much of what the others on here have said, but I’ll throw it out there anyway.

    I’ve been in LA since 10/03 (arrived from NYC) and foolishly blew my money on renting a car for a few months at the beginning (Rent-a-Wreck so it was RELATIVELY cheap, but still a drain). But I’ve been carless since 1/04. I too work at home, largely, so that’s a benefit. I DO NOT live near a subway, so I can’t speak to that. But at the same time, I live very centrally, so a number of great bus lines are easily accessible. I’m near Pico & Beverly Dr, so I have 2 different Santa Monica (Big Blue Bus) lines running down Pico and an MTA line running down Olympic. I also have an MTA line running up Beverly, that cuts across Beverly Blvd through WeHo.

    I agree that the MTA trip finder is a must. Having friends or roommates who will drive you around periodically is also handy. The key is finding a good area to live in. SM and other beach areas have a lot more pedestrians, and pedestrian-accessible shopping. My area, and I’m sure others, are also more walking-friendly. Figure out where you might need to go most frequently, and then see if they are easily accesible by bus.

    I too lack the bread to purchase a car, but prob will do so down the road. But I’m happy and lucky to be able to “get by” without it. I have no problems with work or shopping, and the only thing it really puts a crimp in is my social life.

    Lastly, remember there are many BENEFITS to walking. You get some exercise, actually see and come into contact with some other humans, and get to enjoy God’s great natural wonders! Why else are you in LA?! Jacarandas in lovely lilac and aromatic bloom for a full month is one of my favorite things about LA, as are hummingbirds that hover a mere foot away from your head.

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